How Saraki collected salary, pension from Kwara govt. for years — Witness

As the trial of Sen. President Bukola Saraki entered its second day Wednesday, the Code of Conduct Bureau prosecution’s witness, Michael Watkas, revealed how the senator had been drawing salaries and pension from the Kwara government since 20111 until August last year.

Earlier in the trial, Wetkas said Saraki also wired $3.4 million to his America Express card shortly after he left office as governor for eight years

CCB’s lead counsel,  Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), led the witness in evidence—a statement of account the CCT already admitted as exhibit when the trial began on Tuesday.

The former governor is facing trial over a 13-count charge of false asset declaration.

According to Wetkas, an EFCC operative, the statement of Saraki’s account with Access Bank revealed inflows from 2007 up till August, 2015. The lodgements were described as salary while others were called pension.

“Exhibit 15 is the statement of Saraki’s salary account with Intercontinental Bank. N254,412.25 was the salary for July 2007.

“In May, 2011, salary paid on June 3, 2011 was N291,124. The narration reads: KWSG May, 2011 salary.

“On July 4, 2011, there was another payment with the narration of KWSG June salary, 572,286.32. On August 29, 2011, there was a payment of  N744,002.22.

On October 27, 2011, there was a narration of October salary of N1,165,466.12.

On December 7, 2011 there was a payment of the same amount of N1,165,466.12.

On December 28, 2011 there was payment of the same amount of N1,165,466.12 as December pension.

By the narration in the accounts, in February 2012, the defendant was paid the same amount. The narration says salary.

“By this account statement, they stopped payment of salary and/or pension to the defendant on the August 31, 2015.

“The second tenure as governor ended on May 29, 2011. He became a Senator in the same 2011 till date.”

The witness also gave a breakdown of three accounts, each in naira, dollar and pounds sterling, operated by Saraki while he was governor of Kwara State.

Saraki was the sole signatory to the accounts which were with the Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, according to the witness.

Those inflows were sourced mainly from loans from GTB, which were defrayed by cash lodgements by various individuals, including bank officials, his personal aides and other unnamed persons.

He said Saraki spent the monies on acquisition of landed assets from the Presidential Implementation Committee on Federal Government Properties and the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Wetkas also revealed that there were multiple lodgements as high as 87 transactions in one day  in order to circumvent the cash transaction threshold provided for by the money laundering law.

The witness also pointed out that on May 19, 2009, $10,000 was paid into the Senate President’s account 18 times.

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“On September 5, 2007, there were cash lodgements by one Ubi. He (Ubi) made cash lodgements in five transactions on the same day. The sums are N11m, N20m, N20m, N20m and N6m. The total lodgement in that account on that day was N77m.

“Before these lodgements, the account was in a debit balance of N81,960,299. That was as of August 31.

“On September 22, 2007, there were cash lodgements into the account by Abdul Adama in 50 different transactions. The total was about N45m. But before the transactions, the account was in a debit balance of N80,210,976.70.

“On November 29, 2007, there were cash lodgements by Ubi in about 20 transactions and the total sum was about N20m.

“On March 14, 2008, there were also different cash lodgements into the account by various individuals. Before then, the account was in a debit balance of N96,857,885.17.

“On September 23, 2008, there was the same pattern my lord – there were several cash lodgements by different individuals with different names.

“On April 30, 2009, there was a draft in favour of BGL Asset Mgt Limited in the sum of N400m. Before that payment, there were several cash lodgements by several individuals. One hundred and sixty-five million naira was lodged into the account on that day after which there was a loan disbursement of N400m on the same day followed by several cash lodgements by various individuals.

“On October 26, 2009, there were cash deposits by several individuals with different names in 87 transactions.

“This was done to circumvent the money laundering law. The transactions were made in that manner because if it was made once, it would be above the provisions of the law.

“In the course of investigation, we demanded the deposit slips from GTB and we raised issues with the bank because there were no details on the deposit slips apart from the names.

“Since there was no address on the deposit, we could not trace them. We found out that a person’s handwriting appeared in some of the deposit slips. All the bank told us was that they had since reported the suspicious transactions to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.”

The witness also gave the breakdown of the dollar and pound sterling accounts of the Senate President.

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He added, “The account also had cash lodgements on May 18, 2009. There was cash lodgement by Todimu, who is a banker, of $8,000 at GRA Ilorin branch. That same day, he (Todimu) also lodged another $8,000.

“On the same day, there was another cash lodgement of $4,000 by Bayo, who is a banker.

“The total amount was $180,000. There was a total of $20,000 lodgement by the bankers.

“On May 19, 2009, there were 18 lodgements of $10,000 each. The last three of $10,000 of May 19, 2009 each were made by the defendant himself.

“On June 12, 2009, there was a lodgement of $50,000 cash by one Garba Dare.

“On August 21, 2009, $99,975 was transferred into the account by a bureau de change, Bin Dahuuh.

“On August 26, 2009, there was $49,969 paid by Carlisle Properties and Investments Limited.

“On September 7, 2009, there was also $59,964 by the same company, Carlisle Properties Limited.

“Most of the outflows from the account were basically made to American Express Service Europe Limited. Part of the outflows was made to BDC.

“From our investigation, the transfers to the American Express Service Europe Limited’s account were up to $3,400,000. Part of the outflow from the account was also to the pound sterling account.

“The ASEL received the funds for onward transmission to the beneficiary.  The telex,  dated August 25, 2008,  for transfer to the American Express Bank, New York. The amount of this particular telex is $73,223.28.”

Of the pound sterling account, the witness stated, “The account has six transactions in all – three deposits and three outflows. There were deposits of over £1,516,000

“The money came from the dollar account.”

Wetkas also disclosed that while Bukola claimed to have acquired the property at 15A and B Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, in 2000, the ex-governor actually bought the property in 2006.

“He (Saraki) declared that 15A and B Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, was bought through Carlie Investments Limited in March, 2000. The value was N160m and rental income annually was N7m.

“First offer letter by the Presidential Implementation Committee to him to buy that property at 15 McDonald Road, Ikoyi, was dated November 23, 2006. The committee offered to sell the property for the sum of N165m,” said Wetkas.

“The company that was offered this property was Tiny Tee Ltd. The address is 30 Saka Tinubu Street, Ikoyi, Lagos. The offer was accepted and paid for. The receipt was dated January 10, 2008.

“We wrote to PIC with respect to 17 and 17A Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. They responded. The first offer was dated August 24, 2006 for 17A Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi, and the total sum was N240,900,000.

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“The offer was in the defendant’s personal name. The PIC also sent to us the receipt issued to the defendant, which was dated May 3, 2007 for total a sum of N180,675,000, which was 75 per cent payment for the house.

“There is another receipt for the same date for N36,135,000, which was 15 per cent for the same property.

“Then, there was another receipt of over N24m, which was 10 per cent of the total amount.

“The second offer letter, dated October 11, 2006 for 17A Mcdonald Road, Ikoyi. The sum was N256,300,000. It was also in the defendant’s personal name.

“The receipt of 100 per cent of the property was attached and the receipt is dated October 31, 2006.”

Many documents were tendered and admitted as exhibits while the trial was adjourned till Monday, April 18.

However, the state government has denied paying Saraki salary after he left office in May 2011.

The  Secretary to the State Government, Isiaka Gold, in a reaction to claims that  Saraki was drawing salary from the state after he left office, stated that the ex-governor’s last salary was N291,474.00 for May, 2011.

“From June, 2011, former Governor Saraki started receiving his pension which was N578,188.00 as other past governors in the country,” said Gold, adding that after the review of pension of former political office-holders by the State Pension Board, Saraki’s pension increased to N1,239,493.94 monthly from October, 2014, to date.